ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Make-a-Wish Music

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Make-a-Wish Music
A week in the life of actor, musician, music director and talk-show host Seth Rudetsky.


I usually end the column with upcoming events, but in honor of daylight savings time, let me begin with it. Next Monday, Nov. 9, I'm heading up to Ithaca to do a fundraiser for The Hangar Theater, for which my friend Peter Flynn is the artistic director. It'll be me, his wife Andréa Burns, the hi-larious Ann Harada, the beautiful voiced Lewis Cleale and my good friend, Paul Castree. The fun part is the show, the devastating part is the hours-long van ride upstate. I feel like I'll be back in my days on the European tour of A Chorus Line where we'd have long bus rides to "interesting" cities like Bonn, Germany. The key to getting your own seat was to feign you were sleeping when the annoying wife of the bassoon player came down the aisle looking for a seat. I still don't understand why she didn't sit next to her husband. PS, that was the tour where we were told we were going to London's West End! It was in 1991. Still waiting to get exact details…

[AUDIO-LEFT] Last weekend I got S-I-C-K right after I wrote my column. I had to co-host (with Paul Canaan whom I did the Legally Blonde reality series with) and perform in the Make-a-Wish benefit and every time I swallowed it felt like I had a giant ball of sandpaper in my trachea. Nonetheless, the show went great. Laura Bell Bundy did a sassy song from her new CD that's about to "drop" (that's record company lingo), Laura Osnes sang a song from Frank Wildhorn's Bonnie and Clyde which she's currently starring in, Kate Shindle sang a belty version of "Gimme Gimme," James did his Rosie Cruise version of "Piece Of Sky" getting mid-song applause (!), Eden Espinosa did a whole amazing section from Wicked joined by her former fantastic Glinda, Megan Hilty, and Norm Lewis sang his signature "Before the Parade Passes By" with his delicious interpolate B flat. Click here for a deconstruction of that brilliance.

And I met Tim Howar for the first time. I knew he had done Rent on Broadway but, as we were talking, was saying words like "brilliant" and "bloody" as in "bloody hell." I finally asked what was up with the Brit-speak and, turns out, even though he's from here, he now lives in London…and talks like Madonna. Regardless, he has a great voice and sang Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" because he starred on the West End in Tonight's The Night. The big hit of the whole night, however, was Taylor Carol, a teenager who got his make-a-wish to perform in the benefit and make his own CD. He brought down the house with his version of "This Is The Moment." Here's a little compilation of the whole evening: sethrudetsky.com.

My good friend Jack Plotnick came to the show and was going to get a hotel room and stay overnight till I mentioned that our hotel room had a couch he could use. I'm not saying he's cheap, but by the time I finished that sentence, he had the sofabed pulled out and was in his pajamas. The next day I woke up feeling even sicker and luckily was able to sleep all day. And by "sleep" I mean "teach a four-hour master class." OY! Thankfully, I had a great group and Jack was there as well giving his amazing acting advice. He does this great exercise with people who put on fake "performance" personalities. He'll chat with them and ask them something like what their favorite subject was in high school and why they liked it, and who their friends were back then, etc., and suddenly he'll ask them to launch into their song. It's a great way to remind people of how they really communicate so they can apply that to their song. Go to his website for his whole technique: JackPlotnick.com. One of the guys in the class asked me what I thought about people singing songs from the opposite gender. I said that I recommend it definitely for women because it's a chance to do a classic song and not have the stress of being compared to the original singer because you're a different sex. My friend Traci Lyn Thomas does a great "He Loves Me" and Kristine Zbornik from Catered Affair belts a powerful "His Face." I mentioned that it's harder for men because I've noticed that men have to prove they're masculine when they audition for musical theatre. If you want to sing a female song, pick one that's not about love because even if you change the "she" to a "he," if you're singing a Barbra song, casting people are going to imagine you in your bedroom, towel wrapped around your head, lip-synching into a hairbrush. I asked the guy what song he had in mind and he told me "Maybe This Time." I stared and moved on. Speaking of master classes, my next one is in New York on Nov. 15. Go to sethrudetsky.com to register.

Chad Kimball and Montego Glover in Memphis
photo by Joan Marcus

For those of you who have asked, yes, we are still looking for an apartment. I've definitely gotten more annoyed with realtor double-talk. I walked into an apartment and when I saw the fireplace I asked excitedly, "Does it work?" and the realtor had the nerve to use the old chestnut, "It's a decorative fireplace." A simple "no" would have sufficed. I glared and said, "Decorative? You mean broken." What kind of fake positive spin is that? What's decorative about a hole in your wall that doesn't do anything? On Wednesday I interviewed the two stars of Memphis: Montego Glover and Chad Kimball. Chad has been sick like I've been but he's old-school and has not missed a show. Brava! I talked to Montego about doing Color Purple and she had the soul-destroying job of understudying a star. When Fantasia was out of the show, Montego would have to go on. And, yes, she told me that when they announced it to the audience, she would hear the boos. But she said that it didn't affect her at all. Hmm…maybe she thought of the boos as "decorative" cheers?

Both she and Chad have been involved with the show from the beginning...six years! Yowza! It takes so long to get shows to Broadway. And, apparently, to London (re: 1991 Chorus Line).

At the Chatterbox, I interviewed Tituss Burgess and Donnie Kehr who are some of the singers tonight (Nov. 2) in Rockers on Broadway (go to www.rockersonBroadway.com for details). Donnie has had such a cool, New York show-biz life. He got his first Broadway play, Legend in 1976 when he was just a 'tween. His Mom brought him to the theatre for his first day of rehearsal and when he went backstage he saw Elizabeth Ashley standing in front of her dressing room…completely nude. His mother kindly asked if Elizabeth would put on a robe and she complied. I don't get it, though. It's one thing to be naked inside your dressing room, but why stand outside of it? What was she waiting for? Does the M104 bus run through the second floor of the Belasco?

Donnie also created the role of Bazzard in The Mystery of Edwin Drood when the show was at the Delacorte in Central Park. When it was about to go to Broadway, he got a record deal with his brothers and was asked to go on tour as the opening act for Journey. The four months conflicted with the rehearsal period of Drood so he turned down the Broadway transfer. Well, turns out the four month tour lasted two weeks! He immediately called the director, Wilford Leach, who had the depressing job of telling him that they already cast his part. Ouch. But the non-devastating part is when the show was nominated for all of its Tony Awards, Wilford asked Donnie to come because he had been responsible in the forming of the show.

Donnie also did The Happy Time by Kander and Ebb at Goodspead and, because Donnie grew up without a father, Fred Ebb told him that he would function as his godfather. That led to Donnie meeting Liza Minnelli and eventually being invited to the wedding. You know what wedding I mean. He told us that it got delayed because, naturally, Elizabeth Taylor arrived and realized that she forgot her shoes. That happens to me a lot. I get somewhere, look down, and see that I'm not wearing shoes. It's definitely not something bizarre that just happens to movie stars. It's an everyday problem that needs to be addressed. On Sunday, James and I were late and running down 46th Street when we ran into Scott Ellis. He asked where we were going and I told him we were seeing a show and, after a minute of trying to remember the name of it, I remembered: "The Understudy!" I said, with a smile. We were then doubly busted because Scott sassily said, "First of all, that's the show I directed." And then followed it by looking at his watch and saying, "And it starts now." Ouchy. It only would have been worse if I had looked down and seen that, yet again, I forgot my shoes.

OK. Tonight I'm off to the Shubert Theater to do a section from Broadway 101 at the 10th anniversary benefit for Only Make Believe. Happy November and enjoy that delicious extra hour of sleep!

Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethrudetsky.com.

Front: James Wesley, Seth, Eden Espinosa, Laura Bell Bundy, Megan Hilty<br>Back: Laura Osnes, Tim Howar, Taylor Carol, Norm Lewis, Paul Canaan
Front: James Wesley, Seth, Eden Espinosa, Laura Bell Bundy, Megan Hilty
Back: Laura Osnes, Tim Howar, Taylor Carol, Norm Lewis, Paul Canaan Photo by Ed Rudetsky
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